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Mission Statement
"To Represent The International Ostrich Industry Through Communication, Dissemination of Information and Provision of Industry Standards"

Contact Details :

Craig Culley, Secretary
World Ostrich Association
33 Eden Grange
Little Corby
Carlisle, UK CA4 8QW
Tel +44 1228 562 923
Fax +44 1228 562 187


World Ostrich Association Newsletter No. 75
June 2009

1. New Entrants Getting Started
2. Defining Volume
3. The Missing F Word
4. Talking Genetics
5. FAO Launch Animal Welfare Portal

1. New Entrants Getting Started

Last month’s newsletter discussed the project in Southern Africa to support smaller farmers and the importance of collaboration to ensure the correct business plan, infrastructure and finance to support the process.    

When the internet first became a popular means of communication in the mid to late 1990s, there were a number of forums and mailing lists dedicated to ostrich.  The communication came from many countries and asking questions that are basic knowledge in commercial livestock production.  The forums remaining today still receive these very basic questions.  We (WOA, BDOA, AOA and Blue Mountain) continue to receive communication asking for help from people expecting to start farming ostrich or already farming on a very small scale and looking for assistance.  The countries are blanked out as over the years we have received the same type of communication from almost every country that has started to farm ostrich.   These are a few recent examples:  

Farmer 1:
I have started ostrich farming in ….. I have 210 ostriches of different ages: 58 days, 69 days and 90 days old. I am having problem in feed because no one has it so please mail the price detail of feeds - e.g. 50 kg bag with CNF for all feed. I imported 320 chicks one day old out of which 47 died, what is mortality ratio in them.

Farmer 2:
I am poultry farmer in ....., now I want to start ostrich farming so, I need some kind of help, such as from where I can get ostrich chick and how can I keep them. I hope you will give me positive answer and favour.

Farmer 3:
I am currently working for a large poultry company and have a master’s degree in poultry science. My problem is all my poultry experience is with turkeys and chickens. My best friend has currently purchased a large farm and is only using up a small proportion of this for free range egg production. 

I have been aware of the small increase in Ostrich farming in the .... and has been an interest of mine for a while. Now I have access to a lot of land I am researching ostrich farming and the pros and cons of it. Could you please get in touch with any information on the subject you have.

Also is it profitable? Is it viable in ....? And is it easy to get a buyer for the various products that come from ostrich etc? I will look forward to your response.

Farmer 4:
I'd like to set up an Ostrich Farm business. I wonder if you could send me some information about this and if your company provides services regarding this matter, please forward some details and contacts.

Farmer 5:
We currently have an ostrich farm of about 500 head. We now only sell their meat for human consumption. We were introduced to your website for more information on skin preservation and possibilities of prospective buyers. Please provide us with information about this matter as soon as possible. Your help would be greatly appreciated, thank you.


 Reading these examples when put in the context of last month’s newsletter help to explain why it remains a challenge for the industry to make the transition to full commercial production where we can supply the markets on a professional level.  This newsletter will focus on further discussions on this topic.

2. Defining Volume

What do we understand by “volume” in today’s markets?  During a recent training session Stan Stewart and I had two managers from a large pig production operation.  When discussing volume we calculated the annual tonnage of pig meat they produced on their 200 hectare farm.  The farm included breeding sows and rearing all production to slaughter.  The farm had their own feed mill, with the slaughter pigs shipped to the owner company’s slaughter plant.  They bought in all their feed ingredients.  Their total annual meat tonnage from their pigs shipped from that farm related to the total annual volume of ostrich meat from all South African production. 

Total annual meat tonnage from their pigs shipped from that 200 hectare farm related to the total annual volume of ostrich meat from all South African production

To quantify this in numbers of slaughter Ostrich, in 2004, South Africa slaughtered 208,000 ostrich.  At 25kgs meat per bird, average South African meat yield, this relates to 5,200 tonnes of meat per annum.  Reared under improved production systems, ostrich have the ability to produce in excess of 40kgs of meat per bird.  That improvement relates to annual tonnage of 8,320 tonnes from the same number of slaughter birds, an increase of more than 3,000 tonnes – 60%. 

You will note that Farmer 3 above mentioned working for a multi-national large poultry operation.  Once we explained the volume issue, with his background the writer also understood the challenges.

3. The Missing F Word

A blog published recently on the World Poultry web site suggested that there is a missing F Word in the frequently used phrase “from farm to fork”.  He suggests that missing important F word is FINANCE, suggesting that if we want to cover the whole food chain in one sentence, we have to include the money part.  The writer suggests that "from farm to fork to finance" makes much more sense, but then goes onto ask “which should come first – Farm or Finance?”    He suggests that it is a little like the chicken and egg situation.

Figure 1 - The Finance Cycle

finance cycle

Figure 1 is a simplistic cycle of the money.  Nothing can start without the required financing in place to build the infrastructure required to run the business and provide sufficient working capital to cover the production processes.  This is true for any business.   At the end of the cycle the sales to the Consumer provide the revenue.  

Funding for the cycle maybe achieved with many different players adding value throughout the process operating as independent companies.  It maybe a single vertically integrated company funding every step of the production chain. 

What is important is that the final sales cover all the costs along the way with sufficient profits to support the next year’s working capital requirements.


Figure 2 illustrates the production cycle in a little more detail, to illustrate the many components that can operate as independent companies, each independently funded.  The key issue is the dependence on every stage of the production chain to sell the end products to consumers at a price that enables all processes to operate at a profit and consumers will buy.  If any activity throughout the production chain fails, then all in the chain fail as there is total interdependence on each other. Whilst farmers sell crops to feed mills (can be on farm mill or commercial feed mill), feed mills sell feed to farmers, farmers sell eggs to growers, growers sell birds to slaughter plants, only those products in RED (dark red our core product and pale red our by products) produce revenue that brings cash into the industry to support production costs. 

There may be times when bank overdraft or similar finance may be required to cope with short term cash flows, but overall profitability is totally dependent on the end product sales.

Figure 2 - Production Chain
Click on graphic to view large version

Production Chain


When establishing a new business based on mainstream livestock, it is possible to purchase proven stock and enter established markets at competitive prices.  Ostrich do not yet have this luxury.  Over recent years many breeder birds have been slaughtered leaving a small pool of breeders remaining.  The result of this is that it will require a greater investment to rebuild the breeder herd and develop the genetics capable of producing meat competitively priced.

4. Talking Genetics

The quality of genetics plays an increasingly important role in the commercial viability of livestock production.  The genetics influence such things as:

  • Breeder efficiency
    • Number of progeny
    • Reproductive ability
    • Longevity
  • Efficient Feed Conversion
  • Days taken to slaughter
  • Size of carcass
  • Fat levels

An article in the current issue of Pig International is discussing how to achieve 30 pigs per sow per year.  To put this into perspective, the current Farm Management Pocket Book has the average at 21.6 and high production at 24.7.  Therefore 30 represents nearly 40% more pigs per sow per annum than the UK average.  High performance genetics can only produce at their optimum when they are supported by adequate nutrition and very high standards of management.


The BBC in England recently showed a program on Television called “Mud, Sweat and Tractors”.  The program was particularly interesting as it showed old cine film footage and photographs going back even as far back as pre WW2.  Some photographs were Victorian times.  The program on Beef illustrated just how the pure breeds have changed to meet the modern market demands. 

Pigs and Poultry can bring about genetic changes more quickly than ruminant animals because of the high number of progeny produced per year and the ability to raise batches from the same parentage.  A major factor when developing genetics and/or rations is to eliminate any variables.  That enables the effect of a single change to be clearly identified.  Ostrich has the same potential, but only when we have sufficient turnover of volume.   In contrast cattle usually produce only one progeny per annum and sheep twins or maybe triplets. 

The potential for ostrich production to improve significantly is tremendous as no genetic work has yet been carried out.  However, as can be seen, it requires volume production to support the development work.

5. FAO Launch Animal Welfare Portal
The FAO have introduced a new portal on their web site in May to cover Animal Welfare. This link provides the introduction: Animal welfare web portal launched.

The introductory statement states: “The Gateway to Farm Animal Welfare" is designed to provide a reliable information conduit on legislation and research findings in the sector, as well as on animal welfare standards, practices and policies. Expected users are farmers and government officials, lawmakers, researchers, the livestock and food industry and non-governmental organizations”.

This new introduction to the FAO web site indicates the increasing importance animal welfare has on the international markets and an essential element of a farmer’s production and marketing plan.

Whilst animal welfare is extremely important, there needs to be a fair balance to ensure all members of every population also have acceptable standards of living.



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